This one I have thought about since Wednesday April 27, 2011. "Sweet Home Alabama" was ravaged by tornadoes and I am forever changed.
Thursday morning I woke to a heavy heart and wondered what could I do? I called my friend Rhonda Brantley and before we had spoken for 10 minutes there was a plan. Not one she thought about or one I had thought of but two minds playing off each other knowing we must do something. You see, Rhonda's daughter Kate was in a dorm at University of Alabama. We knew Kate was physically fine but she was hungry and those words to a "Momma" are heartbreaking. If Kate was hungry so were others.
Rhonda called Merry Margaret and before you know it we had donations coming from Joe's Italian, Chuys, and P F Chang's. A few phone calls and a post to facebook and we had individuals calling in with monetary donations from different states. We posted a place where we would meet to gather and load our vehicles. Strangers were showing up with chips, pop-tarts, water, honey buns, peanut butter crackers, fruit and gatorade. Others bought hot dogs, Tazikis, Chic-fil-a and about 300 Quizno sandwiches. We purchased cookies, plates, wet wipes, forks, napkins, pudding, jello, apples and more water.
Together Rhonda, Merry Margaret and I loaded up in the Denali with all other space packed to the ceiling. We were followed by Michelle Gill and Louis who were in a truck filled to capacity headed to T-Town to feed about 500! (yes in a matter of about 3 hours, by the grace of God had great food to make a difference for some hungry college students) We had heard over and over how we were never going to get into Tuscaloosa but we knew beyond a doubt if we had to walk it in this food would get to those in need.
The Lord has a way of walking before us and lighting our path and he didn't let us down this time. We got off at the Cottondale exit to buy 200 more hamburgers and roast beef sandwiches. Unfortunately we could not get in the door and at that moment started to realize this was the first area folks from Tuscaloosa could get too that had food and power. These two young men (college students) pulled into the spot beside us while we were re-grouping in parking lot. Since we didn't have a GPS signal, internet or cell signal we needed someone who knew their way around and could get us to the Rec center on campus. The guys said they would take us but they needed to get something to eat...we had lots of food and when we said P F Chang's they graciously said for us to follow them. Jonathan from Charlotte, NC and Arturo from Miami, FL offically our angels. I have tried to find them on FB but so far unsuccessfully. I HAVE FOUND THEM! :)
We had not traveled very far when we were introduced to destruction. First, tears streamed down my cheeks and then I became very nauseated. I thought I was going to need Merry Margaret to pull over so I could throw up. This feeling never left.
Our two angels brought us into the back side of the rec center and we were greeted by students eager to help us unload. Thankful for food and water and wishing to share with others. We spent about an hour here and Kate encouraged us to move on to harder hit areas.
We re-loaded and headed for 15th street. We were able to get to a command post and the police officers suggested we take food to the Rosedale and Alberta City areas. We made our way back down 15th street and this was when I first felt like we were in a war zone.
It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I was there but it seemed as if I were really just watching this unfold without really being physically present. We followed the Crime Lab bus and even though we knew what it was didn't say a word.
After loading the cars again with food and drink we headed to Alberta City. The police officers would stop us but once they knew we had food let us enter areas that were off limits. (again, a way made by the Lord) They would tell us to be careful and we would proceed.
The sights we had seen up until this point were terrible but there are no words to describe Alberta City. I saw things I have never experienced, looked people in the face who literally had nothing, saw families walking out with everything they had in their arms and danger looming all around us. You could smell freshly cut wood, gas, a burnt scent and finally death.
I was emotionally drained and so thankful I was part of this journey. I now have a new kind of bond with Rhonda, Merry Margaret, Kate, Michelle and Louis, we have walked through this terrible valley together. We were not hurt, did not have damage to our belongings or home and all of our family and friends were safe and accounted for. We did not see or pull bodies from the wreckage and still...best I could tell, none of us were able to function on Friday beyond existence.
I knew I would blog about my experiences but just not sure when my mind could wrap around what my eyes witnessed. Today in church it all came together when our teaching was on John 21:15-19 Jesus asked Simon Peter three times, "do you love me?" and three times Simon Peter said yes. Jesus replied, "feed my lambs, tend my sheep and feed my sheep" after each question.
As Christians we may have hurt someone or been hurt ourselves, but there is nothing we can do the Lord will not forgive. Even if He has to reassure us "three" times. We can still be His hands and feet and work for His glory.
Thank you Lord for keeping your hand of protection over my family and friends. I pray for those affected by the storms and ask for them strength to endure. I am so thankful I was allowed to be a messenger for you on Thursday. Still listening for Your voice showing me the next step. Believing for miracles.
DO YOU LOVE ME? TEND MY SHEEP John 21:15-19
Yours to Count On,
205-995-7283 x 305